ACM Washington Update, Vol. 12.1 (January 4, 2008)

By David Bruggeman
January 4, 2008


[1] Newsletter Highlights
[2] ACM Launches Education Policy Committee
[3] Research Funding a Casualty of Appropriations Meltdown
[4] NSF Education Directorate Seeking Computer Science Expertise
[5] About USACM

[An archive of all previous editions of Washington Update is available at]


There is more detail on each item below, as well as on our weblog at

* ACM formally launched its Education Policy Committee, a group focused on policies for improving computing and computer science education. Its website can be found at:

* Undoing a year of legislative work and over two years of advocacy efforts, funding for the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology was significantly reduced.


In early December, Association for Computing Machinery formally announced a high-level committee of acclaimed computer scientists and educators to improve opportunities for quality education in computing and computer science. Chaired by Bobby Schnabel, dean of the Indiana University School of Informatics, ACM’s new Education Policy Committee (EPC) will develop initiatives aimed at shaping national education policies that impact on the computing field. The EPC will initially focus on steps to ensure that computer science education is identified as a critical component of education policy in the U.S. at both federal and state levels.

Schnabel notes that computer science education plays a vital role in preparing the workforce for needed 21st century skills, but it is often overlooked, particularly at the high school level. “We need to show policy makers that using computing merely enables people to leverage existing innovation, whereas understanding computing allows people to create innovations that achieve breakthroughs,” he said.

Among the EPC’s responsibilities for improving the quality of computing education in the U.S. are to:

* Review issues that impact science, math, and computer science education in K-12 and higher education systems
* Determine if current policies are adequately serving the computing field and recommend improvements
* Comment on proposals before Congress that impact computing issues
* Educate policymakers on the role and importance of computing education
* Provide expertise on key computing and education issues to policymakers

The EPC’s first public appearance will be at the 2008 ACM SIGCSE Symposium on Computer Science Education March 12-15 in Portland, OR. The conference program is here:

The SIGCSE (Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education) program features Schnabel moderating a panel of EPC members entitled “An Open Dialogue on the State of Computer Science Education Policy.”

According to John White, ACM CEO, “The EPC is a logical extension of ACM’s involvement in educational issues at many levels. The ACM Education Board is pursuing projects on the undergraduate computing curriculum, the image of computing, and declines in computer science enrollments. ACM SIGCSE and the ACM Special Interest Group on Information Technology Education (SIGITE) are communities of university computing and computer science educators engaged in how computing is taught at the university level.”

White also cited as current ACM education initiatives the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), launched by ACM in 2005, to tackle serious challenges to computing in US high schools and middle schools as well as ACM’s participation in the National Center for Women and information Technology (NCWIT), which is working to increase the participation of women in IT in general, and the participation of girls in K-12 computing in particular.

In addition, ACM and the Computer Research Association (CRA) cooperate on many issues affecting the health of computing research and graduate education. “Through ACM’s Education Policy Committee, we will continue to engage with organizations that share our passion for rigorous educational standards that drive innovation in our global environment,” he said.

ACM-EPC members are listed below. Additional information can be found on the EPC website:

Bobby Schnabel
Dean, School of Informatics
Indiana University

Fred Chang
Research Professor
Center for Information Assurance and Security
Department of Computer Sciences
University of Texas at Austin

Joanna Goode
Assistant Professor
Department of Teacher Education
University of Oregon

J Strother Moore
Chair, Department of Computer Sciences
Admiral B.R. Inman Centennial Chair in Computing Theory
University of Texas at Austin

Mark Stehlik
Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Education
School of Computer Science
Carnegie Mellon University

Chris Stephenson
Executive Director
Computer Science Teachers Association

Ex Officio Members:
Eugene H. Spafford
Professor of Computer Science
Executive Director, Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security
Purdue University

John R. White
Chief Executive Officer


Since the release of the National Academies report “Rising above the Gathering Storm” in 2005, there has been a persistent, bipartisan effort to increase funding for innovation and competitiveness in scientific disciplines that did not benefit from the rapid increase of the NIH budget in the late 1990s. Unfortunately, Congress abandoned this committee by passing below-inflation increases for research at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), loading the Department of Energy Office of Science and NIST up with earmarks, and a slight increase for science and math education at NSF. Here are the funding numbers for FY 07 and FY 08, with the increases noted by amount and percentage.

Agency (Figures in Millions) FY08 FY07 % change $ change
National Science Foundation
NSF Research Accounts $4,821 $4,765 1.18% $56
NSF Education Account $725 $698 3.95% $27.6
NIST Labs $441 $434 1.41% $6.1
Department of Energy Office of Science $4,055 $3,797 6.8% $258
Department of Energy Office of Science w/o earmarks $3,930 $3,797 3.5% $133

Increases to NSF’s research account and NIST’s lab budget are well under inflation. (The Consumer Price Index is running at about 3.5 percent.) Taking mandatory federal salary adjustments into account, this likely means cuts to research conducted within the facilities and research funding going out the door. That’s right — Congress is proposing cuts to key physical science intramural and extramural research just over four months after celebrating a new law calling for doubling agency research funding. This reemphasizes the Washington axiom that authorizations are nice, but it’s appropriations that matter.

While these cuts were pushed in a effort to find a budget compromise, it wasn’t necessarily a matter of not finding the money. The problem was that the budget earmarked substantial sums for unrelated actives. For example, NIST’s construction budget contains $51 million in earmarks. Even more troubling, NIST’s budget contains a new $30 million program for NIST to give “competitive grants for research science buildings.”

So what does any of this have to do with NIST’s core mission such as research on metrology, particle physics, computer security, and voting machines? It isn’t a trick question — the answer is nothing. If Congress put that $80 million back into NIST’s labs it would equal a 20 percent increase — more than enough to fulfill the commitment Congress made under the COMPETES Act.

The one bright spot, which is a relative term considering this budget, is that Congress boosted funding for NSF’s Education Directorate. Although it was just over inflation — 3.95 percent. Within this allocation it specifically increased funding for the Noyce program by 50 percent (or $5 million). This program provides scholarships to students that have a science major, but go on to pursue teaching degrees as well.

Obviously, we are disappointed. During a December Capitol Hill forum former Lockheed Martin CEO Norman Augustine said “Leadership in science and technology is not a birthright of the United States but is something that needs to be fought for and won day-after-day.” For Congress this really means year-after-year as it makes hard decisions on annual funding for science agencies so critical to research and education. This year Congress abandoned its commitment to lead in science and technology.


The National Science Foundation’s Education and Human Resources Directorate is looking for a new program director to serve as the point person on computer science education issues. The position is located within the Division of Undergraduate information (DUE) and the description/duties are as follows:

“The person selected for this position will serve as the Lead Program Director for the Federal Cyber Service: Scholarship for Service (SFS) program and will coordinate the management of computer science education proposals and awards in other DUE programs. He or she will participate in all phrases of the solicitation, review, and management of proposals submitted to assigned programs; conduct post-award monitoring of funded projects, including site visits an review of annual and final reports; conduct analyses and prepare reports and internal budget plans for programs and other DUE activities;coordinate the evaluation of assigned programs; negotiate agreements with other Federal agencies to transfer funds or conduct joint activities in support of education or research; contribute to the Foundation-wide coordination of activities for undergraduate STEM education; provide leadership in both DUE and NSF in computer science education; represent the division at professional meetings and conferences; and represent the division in cross-directorate and interagency initiatives related to computer science and cybersecurity.”

You can find the job posting on USA jobs at:

Applications are being accepted through Feb. 20, 2008.

EHR is responsible for managing most of NSF’s STEM education programs. This division serves an important role in shaping research on undergrad education, but also manages an important joint k-12/undergrad program called the Math Science Partnership program.

STEM education keeps growing as a national issue and EHR’s importance in this debate is likely to grow as well, especially once they fill this position. It would be great to see NSF hire a top-notch CS person. Please spread the word.


USACM is the U.S. Public Policy Committee of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). ACM is an educational and scientific society uniting the world’s computing educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional

For more information about USACM and ACM, see:


For earlier editions of the ACM Washington Update, see:


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